STEVENSVILLE, Md. — A new span for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is set to be built directly adjacent to the existing bridge, announced state officials today.
The Federal Highway Administration has approved Maryland Transportation Authority's recommendation of building the crossing at the existing bridge. The Bay Crossing Study, which has been underway for several years.
Building the new span next to the existing bridge would likely be the least expensive, provide the most traffic relief, and potentially have less environmental impact than other options, according to the study.
The new span is estimated to cost $5.4 billion to $8.9 billion.
It’s estimated that 26 million vehicles cross the Bay Bridge each year.
During the summer weekend crunch, the traffic can temporarily cut off Kent Island from the rest of civilization.
Just ask the good folks at Stevensville Crab Shack.
“When it’s hustle and bustle like that and it’s so backed up then that affects business,” said Janesse Waters.
Traffic increased by almost 40 percent over the last two decades, and it’s only expected to get worse in the decades to come.
That’s why the Federal Highway Administration held public hearings and conducted a study into the impact of adding bridges elsewhere---something many longtime residents supported.
“We already have bad enough traffic as it is,” said Rob Oliver, who says he’s lived in Stevensville for 30 years. “If you add a third bridge, it’s going to increase the traffic. I get it will increase the flow, but that’s just more people coming through my hometown.”
However, after a series of public hearings and studying the matter further, the feds decided adding a span next to the current ones was cheaper and there was no guarantee the traffic would shift elsewhere.
MDTA's study had also considered building the bridge between Pasadena and Rock Hall/Centreville, or between Crofton and Easton. Those alternatives had drawn criticism from communities on the Eastern Shore.
While some were in favor of building another bridge to the north or south of here, there are still others who agree that the Bay Bridge is the answer, and it makes the most dollars and sense for adding capacity.
“If you just put it between the other two bridges, we already have all of the infrastructure down the road and just don’t let them get off at the island,” said Nick Plummer, the owner of Kent Island Maintenance & Quick Lube, “So we could save the state billions of dollars. It’s all about the money. In my opinion, it’s all about saving money.”
Any next steps would require more review by the Environmental Protection Agency's National Environmental Policy Act review process.